Chianti We All Just Drink Some Wine?

RedWineBefore you head out for happy hour this evening…

This week, I’ve come across some headlines regarding a newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that negates the effects of resveratrol-  one of the antioxidant compounds found in wine (along with other magnificant foods such as chocolate and some berries).

I drink wine…. sometimes… often… (nope, sticking with the more ambiguous ‘sometimes’)

Thus, I was intrigued!

The 9-year study followed over 700 elderly subjects from the Chianti region of Tuscany- a slightly wine-focused area- examining the resveratrol concentration of their urine.

The study found no association between resveratrol and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and/or cancer. In fact, past research proposes that humans would (potentially) need to consume up to 1,000 times the amount of resveratrol consumed by the subjects of the Chianti-based study to reap such rewards.

… What’s that you say?… I should majorly UP my wine intake?…

(wishful silence…)

…No?… That’s not what they meant?

Vino fanaticism aside, I was unimpressed with the title of the brief article in the New York Times, addressing this topic. It solemnly states: “Wine ingredient may have few health benefits.” I mean… it’s noncommittal, but where the article held very little beyond a description of this one study’s findings, I found it lacking.

While resveratrol alone may not be responsible for the decline in CVD (and other conditions) associated with the foods that contain it, it still may play a complimentary role.

My mother once asked me, “what is the definitive text on nutrition?”- To which my newly-saturated grad-school brain had to chuckle as I replied “There isn’t one…”

There’s a good reason for this, of course. The reason is- we don’t know everything! In the grand scheme of science, nutrition is a relatively ‘new’ field. We’re still working on it. The number of biochemical processes that make up metabolism is insane! And they’re complicated! They involve many steps, many cycles… many components.

Simply put, there is a ridiculous amount of interaction goin’ on in there! Picture a well-choreographed molecule dance party… It’s kind of like that…

…And that being said- it would be naïve to think that any one compound is solely responsible for anything that goes on in the body. Resveratrol is part of a family of substances known as polyphenols. These substances are all recognized as having antioxidant effects (protecting against oxidative damage to your cells). And while it hasn’t been proven yet, it is not farfetched to hypothesize that they work together– as this article from NPR’s The Salt brings up.

In addition to this theory there is also well-established evidence backing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption on reduced risk of CVD. This is true not just of wine, but of any alcohol!

Now hold on. Don’t get too excited.

Moderate alcohol consumption is considered 1 drink per day for women, and up to 2 drinks per day for men (sexist, right?). One drink is defined as 14 grams of ethanol, which translates to: 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz of hard liquor. Increased consumption results in the data going in the opposite direction- i.e. increasing health risks.

Do we indulge in a little extra sometimes? Well…yeah…we’re human…we’re celebratory beings! But science says it’s best to keep it to this moderate level- so most of the time, that’s how I roll.

(There is also no reason for those who abstain from alcohol to start drinking. There are plenty of other ways to attain the same benefits for cardiovascular health).

So if you too saw one of these vague headlines, I hope this info has eased any wine-worry it may have caused, and maybe helped clarify some of what is being said. Basically- we don’t have all the answers. The benefits could be in the multitude of polyphenols. It could be the alcohol. It could be a combination of many, or all variables. Bottom line: All this new study is saying is that it is most likely NOT resveratrol all by it’s lonesome.

Regardless….I just suggested that you to go drink beer, wine or liquor….Every. Day.

So…Cheers to science!

Okay now- Happy hour discussion topic: people naming their children after Kale.

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